St. John Tradewinds News

Renell Lettsome on Trial: Day One

Nathan Geiger pictured with his father David.

Prosecution Lays Out Evidence Against Renell Lettsome in Geiger Murder

The murder of David Geiger and savage beating of his teenage son was a case of “destroying home sweet home,” Assistant Attorney General Ernest Bason said during opening remarks as Renell Lettsome’s murder trial got underway on Monday, August 7, in V.I. Superior Court before Judge Brenda Hollar.

Lettsome, 21, was accused of bludgeoning Geiger to death and severely beating his son, Nathan, during the early morning hours of October 29, 2005.

Lettsome, who surrendered to British Virgin Islands police in November 2005, has remained in the St. Thomas correctional facility unable to post a $1 million bail. He faced 12 criminal counts, including murder in the first degree, attempted murder and arson.

Lettsome pled not guilty to all of the charges and did not accept the plea deal offered by the government — the details of which Bason did not disclose, saying only that it included “extensive jail time.”

An all-African American jury made up of three men and nine women presided during the three day trial and then took one and a half days to reach a decision.

Tenants, Police Officials Testify
Bason and court-appointed defense attorney Pedro Williams presented their opening statements before Bason called the first of the prosecution’s 15 witnesses, who included tenants in David Geiger’s Estate Grunwald home, Nathan Geiger and both British and U.S. Virgin Islands Police Department officials.

On the first day of the three-day trial Bason called nine witnesses, with the most emotionally-charged testimony of the day coming from Nathan Geiger.

The teen described the numerous head injuries which he suffered in the October 29 attack and how drastically his life had changed.

Son Describes Night Before Attack
Nathan, who was known for his long curly blond hair, had a close-shaved head and a number of scars were visible all over his scalp and forehead.

On the stand, Nathan told of the evening of October 28, as he and his father watched television and ate snacks in their living room. He said that he thought he saw someone outside the kitchen window and even yelled out, but when he heard no response, didn’t think anything was amiss.

Nathan and his father went to bed around 11 p.m. after saying “I love you and pleasant dreams” to each other, according to the teen’s testimony.

That is the last thing Nathan remembers before waking up in a Puerto Rico hospital two days later, he said on the stand.

Future Surgery for Teen
Nathan, a Virgin Islands native who now lives with family in Connecticut, told how his life has changed since the attack, which landed him in four hospitals before he finally was released from the Boston Children’s Hospital.

Nathan said he must take seven pills a day for the rest of his life, his senses of taste and smell are “messed up.” The teen said he must still undergo a serious surgery to bolt bone marrow over a portion of his brain where there is no bone left since it was dented in the attack.

The worst of all is that his father, who was his “best friend,” is no longer alive, Nathan said.

Lettsome Surrenders to BVI Police
B.V.I. police Constable Clyde Farrington took the stand after Nathan and recounted how he was on duty when Lettsome walked into the Road Town police station on the morning of November 27, 2005.

Lettsome walked around the station and then picked up a local BVI Beacon newspaper, pointed out a wanted photo of himself and said “I’m this guy,” Farrington said on the stand.

The constable told Lettsome to have a seat and contacted BVI Police Detective Donna Monsanto, he said.

“I did it, but it didn’t happen the way the papers have it,” Lettsome told the detective, according to her testimony.

Illegal Entry into BVI
Lettsome said he had stolen a dinghy from Coral Bay and illegally entered the BVI shortly after the murder, Monsanto testified.

The 21-year-old was arrested for suspicion of illegal entry before Monsanto contacted U.S.V.I. police officials.

Lettsome, who had already shaved off his shoulder length dredlocks, had a bag containing a woman’s wig, a Rastafarian hat, a woman’s sarong, a green purse, a camera and a camcorder, the BVI detective recounted.

Suspect Waived Rights
Lettsome waived his rights to remain silent and have an attorney present before making a lengthy statement to the BVI detective, which he then signed, Mon-santo explained.

“I explained that the statements would be used as evidence, and he said that he understood,” Monsanto said.

This is the first of three confessions that Lettsome signed, the contents of which Defense Attorney Williams tried to suppress before the trial began. In a victory for the prosecution, Hollar ruled the confessions could be admitted as evidence.

“He said that he was tired of running and decided to just turn himself in,” Monsanto said about Lettsome. She also recounted how Lettsome told her he killed David, but was “sorry” that his son got hurt.

Afraid for Himself and Taylor
Lettsome told Monsanto he was afraid for his life and the safety of his girlfriend, Amber Taylor, as well as the safety of his child with Taylor and Taylor’s other son, the BVI detective testified.

V.I.P.D. Detective Delbert Phipps of the major crimes division, took the stand and told how Lettsome made a statement to USVI officials when they traveled to Tortola to apprehend the wanted man on November 29, 2005.

Lettsome “understood that he didn’t have to say anything,” Phipps said, who added the fugitive signed another waiver of his rights in front of USVI police officials.

Phipps read part of the 10-page confession in which Lettsome described changing into dark clothes before going to Geiger’s house and waiting on the porch for hours until no sounds came from within.

Pipe and Knife Used in Attack
Lettsome then picked up a pipe near Geiger’s truck and a knife from the kitchen which he used to stab David before strangling him, according to the confession read by Phipps.

Lettsome told police he thought David was dead before Nathan came into the room. Lettsome said he pushed Nathan into the kitchen where he grabbed the pipe once again and beat the teenager.

“I had control of Nathan,” Phipps read from Lettsome’s confession. “I was hoping at first that he would just fall, but I had to hit him a few times.”

Lettsome confessed he then heard David moan and took the pipe and struck him in the head repeatedly when he noticed Nathan moving. Lettsome moved Nathan into the living room and strangled him, thinking he was dead, Phipps read from Lettsome’s confession.

The murder suspect drank from a gallon water bottle and noticed some of his dredlocks were missing, which was when he decided to burn the house down, according to Phipps’ testimony.

Missing Dredlocks Lead to Arson
Lettsome, who used a sock to try to wipe off his fingerprints, walked to the Pastory Gardens miniature golf course, got a tiki torch and lamp oil before returning to Geiger’s house and setting it afire, Phipps read from the confession.

Lettsome “knew that there was a lady with a child” who lived at Geiger’s house and he “wanted them to get out” of the burning house, Phipps read on the stand. Before taking off from the scene, Lettsome blew a horn to alert the other tenants to the fire.

Third Confession Ends Suddenly
Phipps also read a third signed confession in which the murder suspect was questioned about Taylor and family members on November 30 after he was extradited to St. Thomas. Lettsome refused to answer questions about a large amount of money missing from Geiger’s home, or Taylor or his family members.

“I’m finished,” Phipps read from Lettsome’s third confession. “I’ve already confessed and I won’t answer anything about money or any other person.”

VIPD Detective David Monoson also testified on the first day of the trial.

Monoson recounted collecting evidence as photographs of the bloody murder scene were projected on a screen in the court room.

Grisly Photographs
The photographs included images of a bloody handprint on a wall and blood splattered across the kitchen. The final picture projected on the screen was of the unrecognizable body of David Geiger, charred black with his hands frozen above his head.

Monoson said he collected several samples of blood and a water bottle from the murder scene and sent the evidence to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s lab in Virginia.

After Lettsome was in custody, Monoson took blood, hair and saliva samples from the murder suspect, which were also sent to the FBI lab, along with DNA samples of Nathan Geiger, David Geiger and Amber Taylor.

Other witnesses called during the first day of trial were Geiger’s tenants Tommy Ferrell and Deborah Hime and an Estate Grunwald neighbor.